Where do you go once you’ve won one of the country’s most prestigious art prizes on top of designing fashion for the likes of Valentino?
In the case of 28-year-old Daylesford artist Esther Stewart, it’s back to Italy.
Last month, Stewart won the $40,000 Sulman Prize through the Art Gallery of NSW for her abstract piece, Flatland Dreaming. The Sulman Prize is one of the country’s longest-running, and is held concurrently with the Archibald Prize.
Her win comes on the back of having designed a full range of men’s fashion for Valentino in the winter-fall 2016-16 season, which was launched on the runways of Paris – an experience she described as “very lovely and extravagant”.
Having grown up in Daylesford, Stewart and her partner have moved back to town to open their own studio. But being located in a regional area hasn’t slowed Stewart down – she’s recently held exhibitions in both Sydney and the Heide Museum of Modern Art.
Now Stewart, who has been working full-time as an artist for four years, plans to use her prize money to spend some time creating work alongside friends in Rome.
Stewart said her abstract work was focused around domestic spaces and interiors, and how people live in and use those spaces, with Flatland Dreaming exploring ideas of gender roles using strong geometric shapes.
“I certainly didn’t think I would win. This is the first prize I’ve been part of so just to be a finalist is pretty exciting. (To be judged alongside) the other finalists, artists I’d studied at art school, it was intimidating.”
Stewart said working from Daylesford had been a major benefit – not only for its environment, but also for the affordable studio space.
“I get a lot of my inspiration from books and DIY magazines but I guess Daylesford informs (my work) in that I’ve got enough space, that I’ve got enough time to make work,” she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.